Confirmed victory

Dear Secretary Clinton

We are leading Saudi Women’s rights activists and we write this open letter - endorsed by thousands of United States citizens - to express our deep concern over the US government's public silence on the issue of Saudi women's right to drive.

Saudi Arabia, one of the strongest and longest standing US allies in the Middle East, is also the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive, or even ride a bicycle, often dubbed ‘the world's largest women's prison’. As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Many from our religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Just this week a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.

On May 22, 2011, a Saudi technology consultant and mother named Manal al-Sharif was arrested for driving her own car. Unable to find a safe and reliable driver, she was fed up and decided to take a stand not just for herself but for Saudi women across this country. Over the past few days, more than 50,000 people from 156 countries around the world have joined our campaigns calling for Manal to be released and acquitted of all charges. Manal's activism has also led to copycat incidents, with women all over the country posting videos of themselves driving. As momentum grows, we are calling for women across Saudi Arabia to begin driving openly and en masse on June 17. In the context of the Arab Spring and US commitments to support nonviolent movements for democracy, now is the time for US leaders to show their support for Saudi women's rights.

We were encouraged to see media reports that US diplomats have quietly pressured the Saudi government to give women the right to drive... But given the recent arrests of women trying to drive, now is the time for the US to show its muscle and make that pressure public.

We write to ask that you make a public statement supporting Saudi women's right to drive. We do not make this request lightly, but we believe that you making a public statement of support for Saudi Arabia opening the country's roads to women would be a game changing moment.

Secretary Clinton, you are a friend. Indeed, some of us have met you personally during your decades-long journey as a champion of women’s rights all over the world.  Now, as we build the largest Saudi women's protest movement in decades, we need your help.

God bless you.

Saudi Women for Driving (سعوديات يطالبن بالقيادة)

Letter to
Deputy Assistant Secretary, State Department Janet Ann Sanderson
Chief of Staff, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Cheryl Mills
Chief of Staff, Office of Policy Planning Janey Wright
and 28 others
Deputy Director, Office of Press Relations Julie Reside
Senior Advisor on Development, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Steve Radelet
Chief Speechwriter and Policy Advisor, Office of Policy Planning Josh Daniel
Press Officer, Department of State Andrew J Laine
Personal Assistant, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Claire Coleman
Deputy Director, State Department Office of Human Rights Cari Enav
International Officer, State Department Office of Human Rights Dara Duncan-Lira
White House Liason, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Steven Diminuco
Near East Specialist and Senior Policy Advisor, State Department GWI Office Diane E. Kelly
Womens Affairs Officer, State Department Office of Human Rights Linda Lum
Deputy Secretary of State James Braidy Steinberg
Director, Office of Press Relations Mark C. Toner
Deputy Director, Office of Policy Planning Edward Lacey
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philippe I. Reines
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer
Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Joseph Burns
Senior Advisor, State Department Office of Global Women's Issues Steven Steiner
Executive Assistant, State Department Office of Global Women's Issues Valerie Patricia Keitt
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Hoffman Posner
Public Affairs Advisor, State Department GWI Office Nicole R Conn
Director, State Department Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs Andrew Steinfeld
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey T Feltman
Deputy Director, State Department Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs Linda Specht
Director, Office of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter
Country Officer, State Department Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs Josh Harris
Principal Deputy Director, Office of Policy Planning Derek Chollet
Test
I support the recent letters from Saudi Women for Driving expressing deep concern over your public silence on the issue of Saudi women's right to drive.

Saudi Arabia, one of the strongest and longest standing US allies in the Middle East, is also the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive, or even ride a bicycle, often dubbed ‘the world's largest women's prison’. Saudi women's lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on their lives. They lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Many from the Saudi religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Saudi women's lack of this basic right to drive their own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Earlier this month a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.

On June 17, more Saudi women drove a car than ever before. But as Saudi women launch the largest women’s rights movement in that country's history, where are you when they need you most? In the context of the Arab Spring and US commitments to support women’s rights, is this not something the United States’ top diplomat would want to publicly support?

I write to echo the calls for you to make a public statement supporting Saudi women's right to drive. Saudi women believe that you making a public statement of support for Saudi Arabia opening the country's roads to women would be a game changing moment.

Women remain barred from driving in Saudi Arabia, one of the strongest and longest standing US allies in the Middle East. This has gone on for way too long and now, this week, Saudi women really need you to speak up about it.

I look forward to your reply at the responses email below.